October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Confident Sabbatini leads Bridgestone by two

 AKRON — Rory Sabbatini didn’t call his shot at the Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.
But he came awfully close.
After firing a second consecutive 67, the South African was asked if he’d take his chances if someone gave him two more 67s to go home right now.
He said he’d take it and the $1.35 million in winnings with him before he left.
Then came the soundbite of the day from the overall leader at 6-under par.
“If I shoot 12 under, I’m winning, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Sabbatini said. “I don’t see anybody beating 12 under on this golf course. The way I look at it is I’d take even money right now shooting even par on the weekend.”
Even par was what most golfers were shooting in the second round.
After a first day in which 20 pros shot par or better, Firestone Country Club bit back in a big way. Through 36 holes, just eight golfers are under par with course conditions expected to get tougher because of the weather.
Approach shots ran through greens Friday. Putts fell back into the fringe and tee shots found the woods faster than a deer spooked by a car horn.
The second-round scoring average (73.049) is the highest in a single round in the history of the event and the only time the scoring average has been 3-over par.
“The course is only going to get tougher,” Sabbatini said. “We’ve been very fortunate that we really haven’t had any wind.
“If there’s a wind on this golf course, it’s going to become almost impossible to play because, as it is right now, the fairways are rolling. If you hit a ball on a couple of holes, you know straight away, it’s going to be in the rough.”
While Sabbatini didn’t shoot the low round of the day — that honor belonged to Zach Johnson and Davis Love III, who shot 5-under 65 — he has been the most consistent.
With three birdies on the back nine and two on the front, Sabbatini offset hiccups on Nos. 6 and 14 to take a two-stroke lead over Johnson and a four-stroke advantage over a threesome that includes Tiger Woods.
“It’s a matter of picking and choosing your targets out there,” Sabbatini said. “There’s just opportunities that you have that you can be aggressive.
“But you have to kind of back down and just give the course the respect, otherwise it’ll hit you pretty quickly.”
It hit pretty quickly for just about everyone. Every time it looked like Scott Verplank, Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco and Lee Westwood were about to make a run, a hole would jump out and skyrocket their scores.
Not even Woods, who owns this course, could find an answer Friday, finishing with 10 straight pars for a round of even-par 70.
“It was playing tricky,” he said. “The fairways were quick, a lot of the pins you couldn’t fire at.
“They’re basically repelling some of the pins, and you just had to make sure you played safe and then two-putt from there.”
Even those that scored well found something to bother them, whether it was fast fairways, fast greens or roughs that look more like something you’d feed a horse.
“I hit a couple of drives today in that thick hay they call rough,” Sabbatini said. “It was just a little more of a grind. A little more work. I did battle out there and came out on top.”
Contact Brad Bournival at sports@ohio.net.